There was a woman…and her sins are many. Everyone knew her and her sins. She was alone and ashamed. She knew she didn’t “belong” there, but she had to go because she had to see Jesus. People would talk and stare. Would Jesus even acknowledge her let alone talk to her? She was definitely not worthy of His attention, and if He didn’t it would be ok because she just needed to be near Him. But this story is not about a woman with many sins, it is a story about a Savior with extravagant grace.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to his house for dinner one evening, but not because Jesus was his friend or because he wanted Him to be his friend. Simon was curious about Jesus but had no respect for Him and he made it very clear in all that he did not do for his guest. He hadn’t offered Jesus the standard amenities that were normally extended to guests in a home at that time. It was routine for the host to offer water to wash the dust off their feet, give a kiss of greeting, and anoint the guests head with oil. Simon offered none of this to Jesus.
It was also common at the time for people in the city to come and watch when prominent people ate together. They would come in and line the walls to watch and listen to the more prominent people visit together because it was entertainment. On this particular night, this woman of the city came to Simon’s house because she had heard that Jesus would be there.
She came because she was done and she wanted out. She hated herself and her sin, but she felt like she was stuck and would never be anything different. She could never be a “good” person because her sins would always be her identity.
When she heard that Jesus was going to be Simon’s house, she knew this was her chance. She wanted to touch Him, to seek forgiveness and restoration, to worship Him. She had heard the stories about Him, and she had nothing to lose but everything to gain. She didn’t care what it cost at this point. She wanted out of her life of sin and into a life of forgiveness and freedom. She came already grateful for what He would do for her because she believed. When she saw Him, she immediately began to weep at His feet because she knew that He was her Savior.
When she began weeping at Jesus’ feet, she noticed His feet that had not been washed and she began to clean His feet with her tears. Not having a towel, she let her hair down to dry them, which probably only made her lower in everyone’s eyes. At that time, it was not appropriate for a woman to ever let her hair down in public. But she used her crowning glory to clean His dirty feet. Then she went on to anoint His feet with an expensive perfume, Alabaster, that she had brought. It was the best thing she had, and she brought it as a gift for Him. She, who was considered the worst, gave her best and poured herself out at Jesus’ feet. She was considered unrespectable, yet she gave Jesus the utmost respect when the respectable Pharisee gave Him nothing.
Simon thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and responded with these words: Simon, take a good look at this woman. I entered your house as an invited guest, yet you gave me no water for my feet. This grateful woman has washed my feet with tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss of friendly greeting, but this woman, ever since she came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil you neglected to anoint, but she has anointed my feet with precious lotions. Jesus knew all about this woman, and He knew about Simon too. He proceeded to use a short parable to show Simon his wrong thinking. It was a parable about two people being in debt, one a large amount and one smaller. Both debts are forgiven so who is more grateful? Simon answered correctly – the one who was forgiven the greater debt – yet he had no idea about the debt of sin. Simon had no grasp of the gratefulness of the woman who came seeking forgiveness for her debt of sin. Simon, the rule-following pharisee, had little or no sin, yet his treatment of Jesus showed the very evident sin of pride. He had no clue about the grace and forgiveness of God. Yet Jesus was there for him as much as He was for the woman at His feet.
Jesus showed extravagant grace to this woman who came seeking it and also to the Pharisee who wasn’t seeking it. He was there to save both of them, but only one of them knew the depth of grace He offered. Jesus used this woman and her reputation to teach Simon a lesson. If Jesus would have been concerned about his reputation like the Pharisees, then He would have never allowed this woman to touch Him. The fact that he not only allowed it but went on to defend her shows how much he truly cared about this woman. It was not enough to only follow rules – to obey the Old Testament Law, as the Pharisees believed. Jesus showed them that we must love people. He showed true concern and love towards this woman that the rest of the people in the room looked down upon.
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Jesus has extravagant grace for all. He forgives and restores us when we come to His feet and pour ourselves out. Don’t ever think your sins are too many or that He could never forgive you or restore you. He knows us and He knows our sins and He still longs for us to come. He still pursues us. The only way to come to Him is broken – just bring your sin and shame and lay it at His feet. The only thing He needs is your willingness and faith.
The beautiful thing is we are not forgiven and dismissed in disgrace, to remain ashamed in our past sins forever. We are forgiven, drawn in and reconciled to God. The sin that separated us is gone and we are restored. It is more than just forgiveness. It is forgiveness and a whole new life.
This woman had nothing to offer but her shame and sin, and a jar of expensive perfume that at one time may have been used for attracting men. Yet she came and believed and received. She who thought she would never be a treasure became one of God’s greatest treasures, one of His children.
By Lara Cook